Friday, July 23, 2010

Can I Have It Back, My Heart That Is

I was talking to my dad last night (who I still with affection call “daddy”and whenever I refer to him to others as “dad” it feels very misplaced). I am blessed to have parents that have always spoken to me like I was more than a daughter. It’s gotten us into some trouble along the way but I have learned so much from their minimalist censorship. Back to the conversation—he said something that struck me. He said, “little one, you really care”. Emphasis on the “really”. He went on to say that I give my heart to people. I don’t know if it was the context of the conversation (this past year’s jolt into adulthood, how people are such liars, and the reality that I have a lot more painful days ahead of me in my lifetime) or the way that he said it like it’s an anomaly, to actually care, that made me feel the need only minutes ago to draft this email:

I was talking to my dad last night and he said something that struck me. He said that I give my heart to people and that I actually care. He said it like it's an anomaly. Maybe it is. Well, he's right. So, Mr. can I have it back, my heart that is. One less person to have it. Thanks. It's greatly appreciated.

Erica


Now, Of course I did not send this email. (Well not really “of course” because it would be right in line with some of my other impulsive texts/emails/phone calls). As I wrote it though I didn’t even have an intention to send it to anyone. I didn’t send it to the man I should have or the other people who I have blindly given possession of my heart. I guess I didn’t because by them betraying my trust or too quickly walking away there is no need now to ask them for it back, my heart that is. I guess they forfeited it. I guess when I discovered that I gave it to them under their misrepresentation it voided the whole transaction. Heart magically reappears back in my chest. Bruised but back in place.

I understand that I am “sensitive”. And highly “emotional”. (My daddy’s words, but something I am well aware of). But he also said my caring nature juxtaposes (my word not his—he wasn’t an English major) the majority. He didn’t say it like I am right and other people are cold-hearted bastards for not being so giving. He said that everyone is just trying to make it in this world and that people take sensitivity, vulnerability for weakness. He said that when people feel that they can walk around hardened it makes them strong. I think he is right. I think these people are wrong.

I’m not here to discuss who’s stronger, the people who are all-giving with their hearts or the people who never release it. There’s really no contest. Both avenues will leave you hurt, wounded, and reeling in pain. Whichever way you slice it at the end of the day you get a pizza that is nicely cut. I carry the belief that all people, from a basic level, are good. I don’t believe that there are just evil people out here. Maybe, insane. Serial killers, not evil, just really really messed up. So, I am just trying to figure out what makes me so willing to give my heart and others so reluctant. Did I inherit it from my mother? I am seriously considering that as a possibility. If the people that have forfeited my heart are as equally good people as myself what is my heart in the equation, an unfortunate bystander? The one causality that ends up thrown to the side because I threw it out there and he/she was careless with it and threw it down.

The world is not a nice place. It is cold and there are more frequently heartbreaking things that happen than heart filling. Although as cynical as that seems I guess the thing is people do the things that they do-- give a heart or break a heart because everyone is trying to stay true to themselves and as daddy said make it in this messed up world. I give my heart because I care too much about others. That’s my choice. Someone else, on the other hand, only cares about himself because that’s his choice. All day I can ridicule him for being a self-absorbed jerk and he criticize me for being a careless idiot but at the end of the day we are two good people, just going through life differently.

But then again, regardless of how I rationalize the behavior of people who hurt others, rather intentionally or negligently-- Speaking as someone who really tries not to hurt anyone, be straight up and honest, those that aren’t are really really---sucky people. All consideration for their ill-intentioned motivations out the window.

P.S. Thanks for letting my heart go so I can give it to someone better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Nirmala

It was the gem of my day. I entered the spa expecting to have the structure of my eyebrows reshaped. I expected that I would leave looking fresher because let’s face it eyebrows make a face. I expected a lot but I didn’t expect the gem that I found. The gem was Nirmala, a short, fifty-something year old Indian woman. She not only threaded my eyebrows to perfection but her spirit literally brightened my day. She made what could have been an appointment full of pretenses about something real. She reminded me of something that has always been quite unsettling.

The back story on Nirmala, to the best of my recollection, is that she was born in India. She ended up moving to California and enrolled in paralegal school. She became a registered paralegal and for fifteen years attempted to find a job in that area. Nirmala was never offered a job. She recently opened a very chic upscale spa where she offers several services. She is in the beginning stages of her business, where the costs of running it are not adding up to how much money she is actually making. She is coming up short every month and is having a hard time just paying the $3,000 for renting property space. Her husband, also from India, has been a little more lucky in finding a job in his area of expertise; however, he is in a position where he is contracted monthly so there is no real job stability. Next month Nirmala’s husband could be out of a job. Out of respect for his wife and her business ventures, he takes the money that he earns at his own job, saying that he is blessed to have a job so that he can help her. Nirmala’s husband foots the bill for any expenses where she’s short.

While her story speaks to many issues, my favorite being what it says about love and selflessness, there was something deeper to this story that she felt comfortable enough to reveal to me. For some reason Nirmala trusted me, a twenty-three year old, to talk about the insecurities that America has placed on her because of her age. Nirmala attributes the recent reason that she has not found paralegal work as being because of her age. She simply wants an entry level position, yet, feels that the companies she has interviewed with would rather hire someone young.

It would appear from the outside, right when you step into this very upscale modern spa that the person that greets you has it all. It would seem that Nirmala, an Indian woman in America has proven that America’s sensationalized concept of this American Dream really does exist. She has made it, she’s the image of success, right? No. She hasn’t made it because what she really wants to do, paralegal work which she is qualified to do, she is unable to. This woman whose presence alone is rewarding, as a result of an ageist culture (America) is not allowed to do what she wants. And the basis is not even as deep and societally implicated as race, it’s on something even more superficial--our dysfunctional youth obsession . The struggle, our struggle, is how we qualify youth as beauty and lustfulness and maturity in age as death and ugliness. We value twenty year olds more than we value eighty year olds. In our country there is no relevance to someone who is elderly. The older you get the more invisible you become. It’s no wonder that the elderly are so irritable and angry. They deserve the most respect but get the least. There is a small window of being taken seriously in this country and once you get to be about fifty---that’s it. You’re done.

Nirmala cannot comprehend how our country treats people because of age. That is because India’s culture is more age friendly. I would surmise to say that most other countries put the wisdom of age on a pedestal. Instead, we put the most na├»ve people walking around on it. We would rather put trust in faces without wrinkles. Other countries respect those wrinkles because of what they connote.

I told Nirmala that my mother is a paralegal and she burst, “She is so lucky, I wish I was her”. Hmph. I insisted that she didn’t. Worst than not ever being allowed to enter into a career because of age is working in one since you’re practically a baby, your very first job, staying with that company for approximately thirty years and because of age feeling like your relevance is waning. Her experience and my mother’s is similar not because they share the commonality of being minority women but because they share the experience of simply, aging. A heartbreaking experience and rejection we can all look forward to.